The world's most-read Scottish politics website

Wings Over Scotland

Attention, stupid people

Posted on March 06, 2012 by

(You’ll see what we did there in a moment.)

Speaking as someone with a certain amount of experience in the field of polemic – and with the death threats, internet hate campaigns and Daily Star doorsteppings to show for it – this writer is always a little disappointed when grown adults fail to grasp how the concept works. We must, I regret to say, begin with the dictionary definition:

polemic (noun)
a strong verbal or written attack on someone or something: his polemic against the cultural relativism of the Sixties [mass noun]: a writer of feminist polemic
(usually polemics) the practice of engaging in controversial debate or dispute: the history of science has become embroiled in religious polemics

Joan McAlpine MSP is rapidly proving herself a subtle master of the form. Writing a new column for the red-top tabloid Daily Record (read, and this isn’t a coincidence, predominantly by Labour voters), she’s immediately got the FUD camp fumingly a-flutter with her debut piece, an interesting analogy comparing the Union to a marriage in which the husband jealously controls the purse strings of the household.

At this point, readers, let us diverge for a moment to offer a professional tip derived from over 20 years of experience. The art of the polemic – at least when deploying it in the manner of the second definition above – is to say something that isn’t actually offensive, in a way that sounds as though it is. With luck, your “mark” will spot a trigger word and immediately embark on a furious kneejerk whinge, having not bothered to actually read the article in question properly or establish any context.

In such a manner can you, for example, gather 30,000 complaints about a comment nobody with even the most basic functioning brain could possibly have misinterpreted – indeed, which the perpetrator both immediately before and immediately afterwards specifically said did not in any way represent his real views.

And what’s the result? The wider public – which didn’t go looking for offence and was therefore able to rationally and calmly see that there was none to be had – just thinks the complainers are cretins and invariably develops a certain sympathy with the perpetrator, even if they weren’t necessarily favourably inclined towards them in general. Jeremy Clarkson gets paid a lot of money, and not by accident.

Most normal people – a grouping which excludes most of us politics nerds – are sick of the modern outrage culture (a relatively new phenomenon facilitated in large part by the internet), in which someone somewhere can be relied on to be offended by anything, and where barely-sentient idiots demand compensation and/or legal remedy for their hurt feelings or the fact that they were too stupid to realise that coffee is generally served hot and is best not poured directly into your lap. Nobody loves a moaner, and especially not a thick one trying to start a storm in an empty coffee cup.

We’ve never met Joan McAlpine, but we promise you that as a professional journalist she knows that fact very well. We’re not even going to bother discussing the specifics of her Record column, because this blog has a pretty bright readership and we wouldn’t insult their intelligence. Let’s just say we’re not expecting either the SNP or the Record to drag her over any hot coals any time soon, okay?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 to “Attention, stupid people”

  1. Longshanker

    If you don't want me posting links – please say. My reply in the style of …
    Incidentally. Her debut was a lot better than I was expecting.

  2. MajorBloodnok

    WoS, I think we're now at stage three of your Mahatma Ghandi quote down the side of the blog.

  3. I even bought the Record,and I was dubious about it I got it wrapped in a plain brown paper bag,I would rather somebody who seen the brown paper bag assume it was porn rather than the Daily Labour Record,might have to change my mind on a Tuesday.I did read the column,and thought the anology was a good one,so my wife told me.

  4. douglas clark

    It seems to me that this will never see the light of day on 'Better Nation'. As I am a naughty cybernat, or an offensive agitator perhaps, any comment I make is moderated by them.
    Given Jeffs support for someone called Kristy, who writes for them, and who has Joan McAlpine in her sights, I wrote this:
    "Joan McAlpine made an analogy that has been used on both sides of the debate. It seems strange to me that the idea that Cameron is the spurned suitor, or that Lamont is the ever forgiving wife should be the subject of such rancour.

    If any of you have read the more rampant elements of the Telegraph or Daily Mail comment's columns, it seems to me that relationships between Scotland and England are often characterised in assumed dominant, submissive marital relationships. The Paw Broon / Maw Broon relationship to be precise.

    What was a reasonable way of explaining the shortfall in Scotland's fiscal position has been twisted by some, and I'm looking at you Jeff, into something it never was.

    This comment will be awaiting moderation until the cows come home, the sun becomes a red giant or the heat death of the Universe hits."
    I have found that, increasingly,  'Better Nation' doesn't live up to it's name on the tin. 

  5. douglas clark

    To Jeff:
    "Either just delete my posts or give up on this nonsense:
    “Your comment is awaiting moderation”
    Frankly you insult your readers. We have our own ideas and they are not the same as yours.
    I do not agree with you, so stop, pretending….
    “Your comment is awaiting moderation” means you don’t like contrary views expressed in less that academic speak,
    It means that you like to censor alternative viewpoints.
    Well, Jeff, that is just about where you are at, isn’t it?
    I expect this too will await the heat death of the Universe before Jeff gets around to publishing it.
    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”
    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”
    etc, etc."
    Just saying about censorship.I think Jeff is a not the genuinely good guy he makes himself out to be, I think he has an agenda, and not in a good way….


Comment - please read this page for comment rules. HTML tags like <i> and <b> are permitted. Use paragraph breaks in long comments. DO NOT SIGN YOUR COMMENTS, either with a name or a slogan. If your comment does not appear immediately, DO NOT REPOST IT. Ignore these rules and I WILL KILL YOU WITH HAMMERS.

↑ Top